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 > Surges, High and low Voltage, Miswired Pedestals PROTECTION

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JohnnyT

On The Road

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Posted: 11/21/04 05:45am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Since we have a lot of new comers to our ranks I thought it would be worthwhile to initiate this topic..

Excessively high or low voltage will do damage to the electrical components.
www.phrannie.org/surge.html

www.phrannie.org/surge2.html

I carry a surge guard surge suppressor and a Hughes Autoformer in my coach. The Surge guard is hard wired and I will connect the autoformer as needed...

The Surge guard www.surgeguard.com/ will monitor the voltage levels and not allow voltage below 102 volts or in excess of 132 to enter the coach. The surgeguard will also not allow voltage with the wrong polarity to enter the coach.. The autoformer will boost the incoming voltage by 10% up to 116 voltage above 116 the voltage is boosted by 2 %..

Surge Guard protects your RV from:

· High/Low Voltage
· Open Neutral
· Miswired Pedestals
· Surges

Surge Guard removes power if the voltage level drops below 102V or rises above 132V. Once the voltage resumes within these parameters, power is restored to the RV with a time delay to allow for AC head pressure bleed off. Surge Guard monitors for faulty wiring from the power pedestal and protects from reverse polarity and the dangers of open neutral condition. Multi- mode surge protection eliminates the potential for power surges to enter the RV through power cables during electrical storms. The surge guard model that I have includes a monitor panel that lets me know what the voltages are on both legs as well as the current draw.


The process of boosting the voltage is done via a step up transformer(the Autoformer in my case)www.autoformers.com/. The step up transformer or boost transformer will consume power up to 1 amp with a 50 amp load.. The thing to keep in mind is that by presenting a higher voltage to the load, that portion of the load that is inductive (motors, converter, charger) will require incrementally lower amperage as the voltage is raised.. As Sandygirl as stated in another thread the resistive load will increase the current draw as voltage increases..To use an extreme; at 116 volts a 3000 watt load will require 25.9 amps at 105 volts that same 3000 watt load will require 28.6 amps if the load was entirely inductive. In practice the load will be a mixture so some of the lower amperage draw presented by the inductive load will be offset by the increase by the resistive load.. The advantage of an autoformer is not that you will use less power but that it will protect electrical and electronic devices form the harmful affects of low voltage.. My experience with the autoformer is that in low voltage situations the net current draw is less with the autoformer in place so the power draw seen by the power pedestal will be somewhat less since the load amperage requirement will drop more than the power consumed by the autoformer.

The Autoformer It is NOT (necessarily) a "surge protector" -- though some models do have an adequate surge protector built in. But not to the protection levels offered by a surge protector.
It does NOT "clamp" higher than normal voltages. .
It is NOT a "polarity" PROTECTOR -- though some models have a polarity "checker" built in to warn you that the AC source has improper polarity and you shouldn't use it.

It DOES detect low voltages and then increases that low voltage by 10% up to about 116 volts AC. When it senses that its incoming voltage is at or above 116 volts AC, above 116 volts it will boost the voltage by 2%...

I have both because the surgeguard will interrupt power if it is not within the proper parameters and protect from massive power surges.. I installed it after the transfer switch so that it also protects against any generator malfunction.

The autoformer will boost the voltage when the voltage drops below 116 volts so that even though the voltage is within the parameters allowed by the surgeguard unit which will allow voltage as low as 102 to pass voltage that low is hard on electrical devices especially air conditioners and heat pumps.. With both in place should the voltage drop to 102 the autoformer will boost it to around 112...

The autoformer is heavy but is can be hardwired if desired, however I prefer to only have the Hughes Autoformer in place when I am experiencing low voltage.. I do recommend monitoring the line voltage and disconnecting the unit if the input line voltage does get back into a normal range.

The real issue here is the implications of low voltage and high voltage and the effect it has on the life expectancy of the various electrical and electronic components in your coach...

I strongly recommend that those of you on the fence on this subject spend a little time reviewing the information in the links referenced especially the first two.. I also recommend that a voltage meter be carried along with an inexpensive polarity checker...

JohnnyT

* This post was last edited 11/23/04 01:44pm by JohnnyT *   View edit history

Sully2

Cincinnati

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Posted: 11/21/04 06:30am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

JohnnyT:

Most DEFINATELY the use of a "Surge Guard" is a "must". I previously had a 30 amp portable model when I owned my gassers...but this coach came with a hard wired 50 amp model. I might also suggest a low cost VOLT METER to be always plugged into an outlet on the coach. It gives piece of mind when you can glance at it and see whats going on with voltages. (It also lets you know what campgrounds are underwired when your voltage drops off in the summer with everyone running their AC's...[emoticon]...)


presently.....Coachless!...
2002 Jeep Liberty
2016 Ford Escape


George & Lesley

Emery, SD USA

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Posted: 11/21/04 07:14am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I also have both and agree with you. The Autoformer is quite important even if you have an inexpensive voltage merer. I have that as well. The problem is I have seen it drop and fluctuate suddenly. Unless you plan to spend your entire time in the RV looking constantly at the voltage meter, it by itself is not enough. By the time you notice low voltage, the damage could already be done.


George & Lesley + Jasmine our Bichon, retired USAF, 2000 33' Dutch Star, Banks,'98 Dakota, Brake Buddy, Blue Ox, Tire Sentry, Blue Ox Tru Center, Bilsteins, full time.

wolfe10

Texas

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Posted: 11/21/04 07:16am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Good topic, Johnny and good comments by Johnny and Gary.

Many HAVE gone the "automatic route". For those with a limited knowledge of 120 VAC electricity, for those who just want it to be automatic (and are willing to pay for it) and for those who leave their rigs unattended AND plugged in during times of potential electrical storms, this IS the way to go.

For those who do not mind doing it "manually" or are operating on a lower budget, YOU need to perform these same functions to keep your rig and its accessories functioning properly.

Whether automatic or manual, lets look at the things that can adversely affect your 120 VAC electrical system:

Polarity and Ground: Because CG electrical pedestals are out in the elements, subject to far more "inexperienced electricians" than houses, many CG's electrical systems are VERY old, a reasonable number have been backed over by careless RV'ers and "repaired", etc, etc. taking CG wiring for granted IS A REAL LEAP OF FAITH.

You will want to verify polarity and presence of good CG ground BEFORE plugging in. You can do this with an inexpensive polarity/ground checker available in any hardware store. You can do it with a more expensive (about $50) polarity/ground checker WITH BUILT IN DIGITAL VOLTMETER that plugs into any 120 VAC outlet. With the above two, you would use adapters to get from the CG's 50amp male or 30 amp male to the device's 15 amp female to plug in the devices. You can also use the automatic devices Johnny and Gary described.

You can, WITH ELECTRICAL KNOWLEDGE also just use a digital voltmeter (like those made by Fluke). The 50 amp pedestals are very easy. Both outer straight prongs are hot, the middle straight prong neutral and the middle round prong ground. With ELECTRICAL KNOWLEDGE you will know what readings are correct and what are WRONG. This takes under 40 seconds.

With correct polarity and presence of good ground, it is safe to plug in. Now you can check for "good voltage". Good voltage FOR MOST APPLIANCES is 105-128 VAC. Some are more tolerant of "bad" voltage, some are less. Here is the hard part. As you turn on loads, the voltage CAN and often-times DOES drop. IT IS THE VOLTAGE WHILE YOU ARE OPERATING AN APPLIANCE THAT EFFECTS ITS LIFE. So CG voltage can read 108 VAC when you plug in and when you turn on the A/C, battery charger and refrigerator on it can read 102 VAC. Turn off loads until the voltage is in the safe range. This is why I much prefer the $50 dollar units that plug into any handy outlet. I (or my wife if she is operating large electrical loads)can see the large digital voltage display from all over the coach and KNOW what is happening.

And particularly in CG's with smaller gauge wire and older wiring with perhaps more resistance in the connections, as more people plug in and turn on large electrical loads, the lower the voltage. Run your A/C for awhile at 102 VAC, you will need a new A/C! You will learn to give the voltmeter a quick glance when turning on a large electrical load. AEC and Good Governor make these meters. You do NOT need the ones that check frequency (and double the cost).

For electrical storms, the "manual" way is to unplug from shore power. If you must have 120 VAC electricity, run the generator. If not, run refrigerator on propane. We unplug when we are away from the coach in times of unsettled weather. The refrigerator likely uses an extra $.25 of propane all day.

ANYTIME YOU ARE PLUGGING IN OR UNPLUGGING YOUR SHORE POWER CORD FROM THE CG OUTLET, TURN OFF THE CG BREAKER FIRST. The breakers are designed to make and break circuits, THE TIPS OF YOUR SHORE POWER CORD ARE NOT.


Brett Wolfe
2003 Alpine 38'


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bertturner

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Posted: 11/21/04 07:44am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you haven't read every word that Wolfe10 wrote, doing so is definitely a must. Especially the part in all caps at the end. You can do a lot of damage to motors that are run on voltage between Surge Guard's 102 volt cutout and 106 to 108 volts.

We leave the Good Governor polarity and digital voltage display plugged in all the time. We also have a a low voltage alarm that shrieks at 107 volts. Already at 107 volts, the microwave motors (fan and turntable) are laboring audibly, and the airconditioning motors are slowing. When the alarm goes off, we shed load manually.

Although we have a Hughs Autoformer, we almost never use it. We would rather shed load than pull even more current through a flawed wiring system. In addition, ours is an older model that is not automatic, and must be plugged and unplugged by hand...WITH THE LOAD TURNED OFF, OF COURSE.

And again, turn off the breakers as you plug in AND unplug. Not doing so causing arcing, and arcing causes pitting and burning of contacts which reduces their conductivity. Over time, this degrades the entire electrical distribution system. I've been in a few RV parks where the "escort to your site" took on the job of turning off the breaker before you plugged in.

Oh, yes, we also have the Surge Guard, but we don't consider it all the protection that we need.

Best,
Bert

hwybnb

Southern California

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Posted: 11/21/04 07:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great advice from wolfe10 for those like myself that don't want to lay out $300 to $400 for automatic protection. I have been following similar procedures for the past dozen or more years and have never had a problem.





sparker1

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Posted: 11/21/04 08:35am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

No disagreement with what's been said, but don't feel the need for surge protection has been adequately covered. It is not enough to unplug from the pedestal during stormy weather. Most people won't do that, anyway. A spike or surge can happen anytime, storm or not. Unless you have a surge guard, there can be serious damage. Even a surge guard won't help if you get a nearby lightning hit, but it will protect against many surges. $300 or $400 is not too much to pay to protect your electrical systems and appliances.


Stan

2002 Monaco Windsor DP
2003 Honda Pilot

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wolfe10

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Posted: 11/21/04 09:38am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Stan,

I do not disagree with what you are saying, BUT:

Surges and voltage spikes, unlike the other problems with CG power are no more likely to occur in CGs than in your home.

During an electrical storm, unplugging gives FAR more protection from the extreme spikes/surges one can encounter than any surge protector. All surge protectors are limited in the surge they can "manage" by their construction AND by the size of the ground wire from coach to CG. To see lightening striking all around you (like at Branson Rally I) and most still plugged in kind of scared me. Perhaps their surge protectors gave them a FALSE sense of protection.

kbehrent

Puget Sound, WA

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Posted: 11/21/04 10:40am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

JohnnyT, Wolfe10

Great post and something that has been on my mind ever since other posts started appearing. Good explanations from both of you.

Now my question:
I don't understand how the surge protector being plugged into the pedestal can protect you from spikes from you generator. Is this because you are using a "hardwired" surge protector? If hardwired, is it easy to do and what are the pro/cons of hardwiring vs the portable ones?

We are weekenders/vacationers only, so I don't think I will jump at purchasing a autoformer right away. I think I prefer to manually shedding power for now. May change my mind though once we start using the coach!

Great idea about a good digit voltage meter that can be plugged in where we can easily see it and left. Having a audible low voltage warning is a bonus.

We pickup our coach day after Thanksgiving, so I will wait and see what the coach comes with in regards to any built in surge protection before buying one.

Again, thanks all for covering this topic. Keep it coming!


Kevin & Angela Behrent
2 grown kids (Dylan, Max), Dog (Roxy)
2005 39' Newmar Kountry Star DP (KSDP3907) - Triple slide
2003 Honda CRV - Toad
FMCA #: 355250


wolfe10

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Posted: 11/21/04 11:32am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Kevin asked, "I don't understand how the surge protector being plugged into the pedestal can protect you from spikes from you generator."

The answer depends on where you hard wire it into your system. If on the shore power side of the ATS (Automatic Transfer Switch) is will NOT control generator spikes and surges. If it is installed between the ATS and breaker box, it protects the RV from problems in either generator or shore power, BUT, then your ATS is unprotected from surges and spikes. Trade-offs again!

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